BOSTON — STAR RATINGS
The Worst DUD
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (R) Directors: Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick. With Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard. (87 min.) ++ The premise behind this offbeat picture is that three film students disappeared after trekking into a supposedly haunted forest, and were watching the film and video they shot before meeting their mysterious fate. The concept is clever, suggesting a new way to build horror-movie suspense without much on- camera gore. The movie would be better as a 30-minute short, though, since its shaky camera work and fuzzy images get monotonous after a while, and there's not much room for character development within the very limited plot.
EYES WIDE SHUT (R) Director: Stanley Kubrick. With Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Leelee Sobieski, Rade Sherbedgia. (159 min.) +++ After his wife confesses to having sexual fantasies, a successful physician drifts into unexpected events that lead him to a mysterious mansion full of illicit activities and what might be deadly dangers. Brilliantly filmed in his usual transfixing style, Kubricks last movie pleads for alertness to the temptations that assail human nature from within and without. Its weighed down by wordy dialogue and a slowly paced story, though. Written by Kubrick and Frederick Raphael, its based on an Arthur Schnitzler novella. Contains explicit sex, nudity, and drug use. VSex/Nudity: 17 instances with 7 scenes of full frontal and/or partial nudity, 1 graphic orgy scene, propositioning, and implied child sex. VViolence: 2 instances of mild violence, one implied. VProfanity: 35 harsh expressions. VDrugs: 4 scenes with social drinking, 1 with marijuana, 1 death by overdose.
LAKE PLACID (R) Director: Steve Miner. With Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson. (88 min.) + Placid lake, giant crocodile, chomp chomp. Stay away unless you enjoy gross- out violence, and stay even farther away if you're an animal lover, since some of the most grisly attacks are aimed at cows who just want to chew their cuds in peace. Whats a good cast doing in a clunky horror-spoof like this?
MUPPETS FROM SPACE (G) Director: Tim Hill. With Muppet performers and Ray Liotta, David Arquette, Jeffrey Tambor, Andie MacDowell, F. Murray Abraham, Pat Hingle. (82 min.) ++ Gonzo always knew he was unique, and now he learns why: His family is from outer space, and a reunion is long overdue. Muppet fans will enjoy the antics of Miss Piggy and her friends, but others may find the action less sprightly and funny than it tries to be.
Currently in Release AMERICAN PIE (R) Director: Paul Weitz. With Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy. (100 min.) + A bunch of high-school boys make a vow to consummate their sex lives before graduation, and pursue various girls with this project in mind. Teenybopper comedies rarely reach heights of inspiration, and this one is mostly unappealing despite a handful of amusing performances. Contains a high degree of gross-out humor. VSex/Nudity: 78 instances of graphic sexual innuendo and activity, 11 instances with partial and/or complete nudity. VViolence: 2 scenes involving fistfights. VProfanity: 62 expressions. VDrugs: 29 instances of drinking.
AN IDEAL HUSBAND (PG-13) Director: Oliver Parker. With Jeremy Northam, Julianne Moore, Rupert Everett, Cate Blanchett, John Wood, Minnie Driver, Peter Vaughan, Jeroen Krabb. (97 min.) +++ Oscar Wildes play inspired this supple comedy, centering on a well- starched British gentleman whos hiding a secret that could touch off a political scandal if a beautiful blackmailer doesnt get what she wants. The dialogue is witty, the cast is appealing, and modern-day moviegoers will spot more than a few parallels between their morally checkered age and London of a century ago. +++1/2 Sparkling comedy, fun plot twists, intelligent, charming, witty. VSex/Nudity: Fleeting nudity, mild innuendo, 1 instance of implied sex. VViolence: None. VProfanity: 7 mild expressions. VDrugs: 9 scenes with drinking and/or smoking.
ARLINGTON ROAD (R) Director: Mark Pellington. With Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis. (117 min.) +++ A widowed college teacher gets the idea that his clean-living suburban neighbors may be involved in a terrorist plot. The story is vivid, involving, and thought-provoking, and Pellington keeps it moving at such a steady clip that you almost don't notice when Ehren Kruger's screenplay makes an occasional lapse into far-fetched coincidence. Be warned that this Hitchcockian thriller pursues its ideas to grim and unsettling conclusions. VSex/Nudity: 1 mildly compromising scene. VViolence: 5 scenes including kidnapping, a fistfight, and guns. VProfanity: 19 expressions, mostly mild. VDrugs: 6 scenes with alcohol, 2 with cigarettes.
AUTUMN TALE (PG) Director: Eric Rohmer. With Batrice Romand, Marie Rivire, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre, Alexia Portal. (110 min.) ++++ Two friends decide to fix up a middle-aged widow with a new man but get distracted by romantic agendas of their own. A founding member of French film's revolutionary New Wave movement, Rohmer gives this bittersweet story a truly autumnal mood, tinged with the melancholy of lives that won't see spring again, yet as bracing as the energy of its refreshingly mature main characters. French with English subtitles.
THE DINNER GAME (Not rated) Director: Francis Veber. With Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vendernoot, Catherine Frot. (82 min.) +++ Playing an obnoxious game he enjoys, a publisher invites an eccentric man to dinner so he and his friends can mock him, but the unsuspecting guest proves to be more solid and sensitive than anyone else around. France invented this sort of crackling farce, and the tradition remains alive and well in Veber's able hands. French with English subtitles.
MY SON THE FANATIC (R) Director: Udayan Prasad. With Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgard, Akbar Kurtha, Gopi Desai. (86 min.) +++ The venturesome Hanif Kureishi wrote this colorful drama about a hard- working Pakistani immigrant who agonizes over his sons decision to become an Islamic fundamentalist instead of blending into their adopted English culture. The story loses momentum when it wanders into the fathers friendships with a businessman and a prostitute, but overall its intelligently written and appealingly acted. VSex/Nudity: 2 scenes with nudity, 2 implied sex, 1 morning-after. VViolence: 1 brief riot, 1 with a man being beaten. VProfanity: 29 expressions. VDrugs: 13 instances with drinking and/or smoking, 1 with drugs.
THE RED VIOLIN (Not rated) Director: Franois Girard. With Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Don McKellar, Jean-Luc Bideau. (130 min.) +++ This omnibus-style film traces the fictional history of a superbly crafted violin, and the mystery attached to it, as it passes from 17th-century Italy to China during the Cultural Revolution, with stops in Austria and England along the way. Movies in this genre are often made with more attention to international marketing than first-rate storytelling, but Girard invests each episode of this Canadian production with dramatic credibility and emotional strength. In four languages, with English subtitles when appropriate. +++ Lushly scored, unusual, leisurely paced, rewarding, haunting. VSex/Nudity: 3 instances of nudity, 1 explicit sex scene, innuendo. VViolence: 1 mild scene. VProfanity: 6 expressions. VDrugs: 2 scenes with smoking, 1 with opium.
RUN LOLA RUN (R) Director: Tom Tykwer. With Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Herbert Knaup, Armin Rohde. (81 min.) ++++ Amazingly creative filmmaking propels this anything-goes tale of a young woman who has just 20 minutes to save her boyfriends life by raising a huge amount of cash. Tykwers style gives the movie an explosive energy that never quits, marking him as the most ingenious new talent to hail from Germany in ages. Contains violent action. In German with English subtitles. VSex/Nudity: 1 very brief scene. VViolence: 9 scenes with gunshots, mugging, car crashes followed by threats of violence. VProfanity: 18 harsh expressions. VDrugs: 1 drug deal, 2 scenes with smoking, 4 with drinking.
SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (R) Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, George Clooney, Brent Spiner, Minnie Driver. (80 min.) ++ A bunch of third-graders sneak into an adults-only movie that teaches them even more obscenities than they already know, touching off a visit to Hades and a war with Canada, among other adventures. Based on the TV cartoon series with a knack for titillating youngsters and irritating parents, the comedy labors mightily to be as offensive and obnoxious as possible. Its inventive in an idiotic sort of way, though, and pauses occasionally to make serious points about movie violence and censorship. Contains extremely foul sexual and scatological humor. + Offensive, vulgar, pointless, irreverent. VSex/Nudity: 1 scene with nudity, and 17 instances of innuendo. VViolence: 3 scenes with blood including gory cartoon violence in a war. VProfanity: At least 300 expressions, often harsh. VDrugs: 3 scenes with smoking.
STAR WARS: EPISODE I The Phantom Menace (PG) Director: George Lucas. With Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd. (132 min.) +++ The series heads into its second trilogy as Jedi knight Qui-Gon Jinn and apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi meet a boy named Anakin Skywalker on the desert world Tatooine during a dispute between the minor planet Naboo and a powerful trade federation. The computer-driven effects are impressive, but the adventure is hampered by a flat screenplay and dull acting. +++ Thrilling visuals, earnest, action-packed. VSex/Nudity/Profanity/Drugs: None. VViolence: 27 scenes of bloodless combat.
TARZAN (G) Directors: Kevin Lima, Chris Buck. With voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close. (88 min.) +++ Animated version of the classic yarn about an orphaned child who grows up with gorillas until humans barge into his domain. The cartooning is lively and funny, and the voice-only cast brings the characters to vivid life. Theres no over-the-top music or comedy sequence to place this with the very best Disney animations, though. +++1/2 Exhilarating, may be too intense for the under-six crowd, fast-paced. VSex/Nudity/Profanity: None. VViolence: 9 scenes, including the implied killing of Tarzans parents and a baby gorilla by a leopard. VDrugs: 1 scene of a hunter drinking wine and Tarzan making fun of cigar smoker.
WILD WILD WEST (PG-13) Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. With Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, M. Emmet Walsh. (107 min.) ++ Smith and Kline play 19th-century government agents chasing a mad scientist (Branagh) who wants to conquer America with weapons as surrealistic as they are scary. Their energy cant outweigh the trite action scenes havent we seen enough fiery explosions and head-butting fistfights by now? The flat dialogue sinks into racial slurs and disability jokes whenever it runs out of ideas. That happens constantly, even though no fewer than six writers cooked up the screenplay. u1/2 Silly, idiotic plot, vacuous. VSex/Nudity: 2 light scenes and some innuendo. VViolence: 17 scenes involving cannons, gunfire, knives, and fistfights. VProfanity: 16 mild expressions. VDrugs: 14 scenes with alcohol and/or cigars.
LAKE PLACID: Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) shoots at a 30-foot crocodile terrorizing a lake in his small hometown in Maine. Bob akester/20th Century Fox
CENTRAL STATION (R) Director: Walter Salles. With Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius de Oliveira. (115 min.) +++ A feisty Brazilian widow meets a little boy with no home, takes him under her wing, and helps him find elusive family members deep in the countrys interior. +++1/2 Thought-provoking, moving, compassionate.
COMING SOON ... (In stores July 20)
8 MM (R) Director: Joel Schumacher. With Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, Catherine Keener. (123 min.) + Hired to discover whether an eight-millimeter snuff movie depicts an actual murder, a private eye enters a horrific world of degrading sex. The journey turns out to be so nasty that you cant help but wonder why Cage and Schumacher signed onto it. DUD Deeply disturbing, unbearable to watch, laughably bad.
DOWN IN THE DELTA (PG-13) Director: Maya Angelou. With Alfre Woodard, Mary Alice, Wesley Snipes, Esther Rolle. (110 min.) +++ Long celebrated as a poet, Angelou makes her movie-directing debut with this emotionally engaging story of an African-American woman who takes her drug- abusing daughter and endangered grandchildren from Chicago to Mississippi so they can connect with their Southern roots. +++ Uplifting, raw, life-affirming.
THE 24-HOUR WOMAN (R) Director: Nancy Savoca. With Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Patti LuPone. (95 min.) +++ Eager for the joys of motherhood, a TV producer combines the personal with the professional by making her pregnancy a part of her show. The movie is rough around the edges, and the ending doesn't resolve the questions raised. But it bursts with energy and commitment in exploring womens lives.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society